Camille Reyes

Archive for February, 2010|Monthly archive page

Buzz Humana

In Social Networks on February 27, 2010 at 5:16 pm

This piece by Jeff Jarvis is perhaps the best thing I’ve read on the changing nature of the media, that old chestnut of new media v. old media.  I have no idea who Jarvis is (yet), but he references folks I am familiar with like Clay Shirky.  I also found this piece thanks to NYU J-Professor Jay Rosen’s tweet stream, which seems extremely fitting given the way authority in content has shifted.

I was actually talking about many of these ideas, although far less logically, with a professor a couple of weeks ago.  I said much attention had been given to citizen journalists or this trend of user-generated content, but what of the editors?  Who chooses the content for the front page when that concept is fast becoming an artifact? I came into NYU with an interest in news credibility and the role of aggregation, still wholly relevant as suggested by Jarvis’ model.  Yet now, I am more intrigued by the human link section of his diagram.

I’m finding a huge portion of my information these days through human links via Twitter and Facebook.  I also share a consistent amount of links.  We are becoming mass editors, taming the information overload through our own identities.  Credibility too is less of a top-down, centralized affair and more of  a set of individuals waxing and waning trust and popularity with megaphones of various sizes.  It’s much more than Gladwell’s Tipping Point, much more than the cool kids creating culture.  My grandmother could use her substantial trust capital, and with a dash of branding and base technical guidance from me, generate her own following, her own publishing empire.  The possibilities are dizzying, and incredibly fun if you’re interested more in ideas than money.  It’s a tough time to be a ruthless capitalist.  You need to care or you will bleed out, stabbed by a primordial business model and a new domineering audience.

The content author is still incredibly important.  The stuff must originate from somewhere; content is still queen (c’mon did you really think I’d give it to him?).  Yet I keep gravitating toward that human link orbit.  I’ve long been fascinated by this role called curator.  As early as high school, I was noted for my ability to synthesize information from diverse fields, a kind of intellect that feeds on breadth and connection.  It occurs to me that this preference is what tractor beamed me to the Media, Culture and Communication program at NYU, and what propels my fascination with social networks.  Academia on the whole however, by my observation, favors depth over breadth—the esoteric trapped in a brown tweed blazer with elbow patches and a pipe.  This could prove problematic for me if I decide to pursue my doctorate.  I’m having a hard enough time choosing a thesis topic.  Commit to one idea?  Would you tell a bee to only pollinate one flower?

Buzz off!  (Follow me and all my flowers, even the wilted Bunnicula-ed ones, on Twitter at gorditamedia.)

Speaking of bunnies (see how I flit about?):

Freedom, Not Fairness

In Advertising, Culture, Policy on February 21, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Just read a great article from Craig Aaron at Free Press on HuffPo about the brouhaha over the Fairness Doctrine.  The federal Fairness Doctrine said that opposing viewpoints had to be given broadcast time and it was rightfully tossed out in 1987.  Do you want the government monitoring our media- playing referee in that manner?  I surely do not.  There are better ways to promote a public sphere full of viewpoints galore, as Craig suggests.

Turns out, Republicans are brilliantly trying to call upon their rich history of deceptive rhetoric to bring the ghost of the Fairness Doctrine back to life.  I think Democrats obfuscate too; the recent track record of the Rove kids is just the stuff of shock and awe.  The Republicans have better “strategery.”  Better twirlly-bar mustaches and villain laughs.  I’m a little jealous, but I’m praying for less evil tactics on all sides.  I digress.

So this FD ghost is really going to take net neutrality out back and, well, I can’t speak of it in polite circles. Republicans will dress any attempt at regulating the Internet so that it remains a neutral space in tattered, Scrooge scary clothing with heavy chains not worthy of Lady Gaga.

This is why I’m suggesting a strategy of my own for those in favor of net neutrality, which should be every single one of us who doesn’t work for a telephone company or major media conglomerate (and even some people at those places with souls–shhhh, we need them to stay hidden!).  My suggestion: change the name!  Call it Net Freedom.

I’m not kidding.  People feel funny voting against freedom.

I’m stealing this idea from Fox News actually, which makes it all the more poetic.  They called the invasion of Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Maybe they took this directly from Rove.  Regardless, Fox certainly popularized it and most of us, including me, bought it.  Okay, so I personally looked at is as Operation Save Our American Asses Because Colin Says They Have Nukes–that’s why I bought it, but that’s not catchy and someone knew they needed to ahem, “reframe” the war.  Thus, freedom for the other guy emerged.  How noble.  I digress.

Back to net neutrality.  Most people in this country who hear the word neutrality think of Switzerland.  This is the only other time we see this word–from our history text books.  They stayed out of the war.  Regardless of authorial intent or historical accuracy, we hear neutral and we think of the land of chocolate, Swatch watches, bank accounts and really nice rich people. Neutrality equals Swiss!  This is far better to the American than say, oh, France.  Ack!  Give me back my freedom fry you French, life loving type!  Yet, Swiss is still not American and if there is anything that stands for American values, it is the Internet!  So says Hillary.  And now Google in China.  Groan.  I digress.

Neutrality does not equal some messiah network of routers and switches teeming with information (porn!) that will magically liberate the globe.  (I’ve just upset the techno-utopians and worse, Cisco.)  Neutrality, among other things, means that Comcast can’t turn internet speed into a secret packet auction where some of us only get a fraction of access for what we paid.  Comcast or any company shouldn’t get to rob us blind like a giant peacock picking our pocket at the zoo.  Scary.  Yet, this has already happened and the FCC has already slapped their hand.  Comcast will soon get to own a major content provider, NBC, because why would Comcast do anything wrong with such a sterling property?  Hmmm, because they robbed the masses at least once already?  Speaking of rhetoric, I have a suggestion for Comcast, too.  Try out the tag line: We did some evil, only a little evil.

Neutrality is the idea that will keep your mom and pop equivalents running because they can’t be pushed out by the big guys any faster than you stop patronizing them online (or, eeek!, in person).  Neutrality is good for Powell’s Bookstore, Bitch Media, eetsy and Britton’s Archery.  (I had a great interaction with the latter store when Ted Nugent came to town and I did a cross-promotion with them to get butts in seats.)  I’m not a fan of killing deer, but I am a fan of the friendly shop owners and their freedoms which include Net, say it with me now, Freedom.

To sum it up, we should advocate for less Switzerland; no Fairness Doctrine; more red, white and blue (without the brie); and more Braveheart.  And remember, in the wonderful words of the Broadway musical Avenue Q, “the Internet is for Porn!”  Net Neutrality = Net Freedom.  Freedom is not fair.  Freedom has been regulated in this country since 1787.

Steak is Overrated. A Prose Ode to Thomas Benton.

In Education on February 18, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Although I’m certain about finishing my MA, I’m not sure about getting my PhD.  If you read accounts like this one from Thomas H. Benton in the Chronicle of Higher Education, I would be one graham cracker short of a Smore for enlisting.  The comment trail to the article is equally interesting.  Benton has hit a nerve.  I’m one of those gals who actually likes to do a lot of research on prospective opportunities/fields.    My independent studies confirm the bleak conditions Benton describes.  Finding a tenure track position in the Humanities post graduation has only slightly better odds than becoming an astronaut.  Yet, I chuckle at a number of descriptions offered in the piece, including the idea that teaching and research assistants are some sort of cogs in the machine, an exploited labor force with the evil tenured bosses spitting on them from on high.

In the private sector, this form of “exploitation” is known as internships or junior staff.  There are many junior staffers who think they are above such menial tasks as teaching freshmen or making copies.  Those elitist jerks miss loads of opportunities.  Perhaps I watched The Secret of My Success with Michael J. Fox one too many times, but delivering those copies to the CEO and having a conversation in the process embodies an entrepreneurial spirit, not some laughable masochistic grad student behavior.  Same with teaching freshmen.  News flash for Benton: at some universities (read NYU) competition for even these teaching jobs is fierce, as it should be.

Does NYU have more delusional hordes than most schools?  Perhaps.

Is NYU a different animal because it is private and absurdly expensive?  Perhaps.  And this question of expense leads me to another point.

Benton derides the “life of the mind” as some fantasy world.  Is it any more of a fantasia than the working class HVAC brother he touts in the essay?  When I completed my undergraduate degree in English, well over a decade ago, my dream was to become financially independent.  There were many who forecasted doom simply because I chose to major in what I loved.  I owe Professor Robert “Rocky” Rockabrand for dispelling such myths.

To be fair, there were plenty of thunder heads; starting my career was extremely hard–right up there with divorce, home foreclosure, losing a job, pregnancy–or so I hear.  Would it have been any easier if I had majored in Business? No, partially because I’m less talented/interested in determining break-evens or traditional ROI.  I did my research then, as now.  I began in marketing/public relations at a theater, and for a time I really wanted to be a journalist.  I worked connections and landed a fancy freelance gig with a wildly respected daily newspaper, working at night while I slaved away  at Arthur Andersen (Benton should’ve been there!  Hello disillusionment. ) during the day.  There was a hiring freeze at the paper.  Even in the late 90s the media had a chronic cough.  They couldn’t hire me full-time, and I am so grateful because I would’ve been miserable.

After limited experience and observation, I came to the conclusion that journalists had it really, really bad–PhD holding bad.

I stuck with public relations so I could work with my journalist friends, yet eat filet mignon on Tuesdays.

This “strategy” or life plan worked much to my satisfaction for many years over the course of many companies, none greater than my last, the venerable PR agency, Waggener Edstrom.  I was living Benton’s private sector fantasy, driving around in my dream car fueled on healthy paychecks, benefits and only a B.A. in, gasp, English.  Had I a family to enjoy and help support, I probably would not have left.  I did not radically change my life because I was a bitter bunny either; I took a giant risk because I wanted something more.  Divine providence, hard work and many mentors brought me to NYU, not some brainwashing professorial cabal.  Grad students are, by my estimation, better than your average exploited worker at making informed choices.  Benton is kind to write with such truth, and he will no doubt help many students.  Yet, this is his truth, not mine.

I admit the mounting debt from student loans looms large.  I miss the Caesar salad at El Gaucho, and my sweet Mini Cooper S.  Double for my Portland friends or my adorable dog, now happily retired with his grandparents in Florida while I read Heidegger in Brooklyn.  The other side of my ledger is looking plump though too, filled with big ideas about the fate of the media in this country, critical theory, even I Love Lucy.  I’m learning kaleidoscopes from brilliant faculty and fellow students; I’m happy… for now.  Keeping my fantastic life of the mind going will come with continued sacrifice, yet it also will come with value–a value determined by me-the little worker, dear Benton.  I will weigh my choices once more, as soon as I finish reading The Death and Life of American Journalism with relish.

For a lovely retort to Benton check out Matt Feeny’s essay:

http://theamericanscene.com/2010/02/16/is-the-phd-trap-a-trap-ii

I Give You an ‘A’ for Email and Effortless Disrespect

In Culture, Education on February 17, 2010 at 6:14 am

I’m disturbed by a specific moment in Digital Nation, an excellently produced program on Frontline.  Disturbed is the polite, NPR word for my feeling.  Shades of anger aside, many of the educators interviewed at the “pro-technology” public school in the United States should be introduced to the nuns from my father’s Cuban elementary school.  I wonder what the Sisters would say about multi-tasking in their classrooms.  Not only are many of the teachers interviewed defeatist about the multi-tasking (read: undisciplined) behaviors, one of them says teaching multi-tasking is important for the students’ future jobs.  (See 34:48 in Teaching with Technology) Maybe I’ll need to do the PTA circuit (my Lisa Simpson moment!), but such notions about teaching are not acceptable.  The fact that this educator says this with pride on a nationally broadcast television series is disgraceful.  What happened to teaching students how to write or multiply or feel awkward in the locker room (oh, P.E.)?  To be fair, this same teacher had some cool, likely effective methods for using tech in the classroom, but then she busts out with the really unfortunate multi-tasking quote.

Our highly caffeinated educator is equating the “skill” of multi-tasking as something on the level of writing.  I have two issues with this: 1. Multi-tasking does not count as an employment skill (unless wearing shoes does, too) 2. Multi-tasking masquerades as productivity.  Let’s put aside the question of college preparation because this teacher likely wears neoliberal undies.  Let’s meet her in the break room on her turf.  I’ve been in the information workforce for over a decade.  (I’m taking a break now for grad school, but more on that in a future post.)  I worked for an excellent company where I received, on average, 100 emails a day.  At first, I drowned in that sea of mail, but I learned to cope; oddly enough I had no educator to thank for this prized ability of writing an important document one minute, and dealing with interruptions the next.  Maybe my “ramp up” time would have decreased if I had “Spark Noted” The Great Gatsby and mastered the art of distraction thinking, a.k.a cheating on ideas?

Most companies are not in the business of producing email, text messages, instant chats, You Tube videos, and status updates.  Aside from priority communication needs, multi-tasking does not lead to a superior product or service.  I am a good example of this.  In my last performance review, the only constructive criticism I received was to increase my response time on emails (valid).  The irony, of course, is that my superior performance was achieved, in part, by NOT MULTI-TASKING.  I blocked out time on my calendar for email, and email only.  I “hid” on instant messenger.   In short, I focused; and perhaps we could give some of that credit to the educators who dared to lecture me using only their knowledge and their voices.  Horrors!

Yes, I could have used my Outlook rules to more efficient ends.  Yes, my inbox loomed like a schoolyard bully to more traditionally ordered friends (3k messages—run away!).  Yes, I sometimes missed important pieces of communication, but more often than not, I missed what my girlfriend had for lunch, twenty things about you or the cat playing on the keyboard.  Instead, to borrow a tag line from my favorite software system, I got “better results, faster.”  No thanks to the maverick educator over at middle school I.S. 33-whats it number; sorry, I was distracted by your bra color.

*Disclaimers: I did learn to enjoy the soothing sound of Tweet Deck while I worked, but I didn’t look at it when I was writing something important; my education, thank the pre-LOL Cat Bible, gave me the sense to determine relative importance and timeliness.

Also, my mother is a professor.  Her brothers called her Dragon Lady.  Scratch the nuns, let’s send Mrs. Distraction to Mom.  Mwahahahaha!

Check and Balance This, Jerks

In Philosophy on February 8, 2010 at 6:05 pm

I encourage everyone to read this editorial in the New York Times about First Amendment interpretations and the recent Supreme Court decision which deconstructs much campaign finance law, allowing corporations and individuals to spend unlimited amounts.

"Do you ever have one of those days when everything seems unconstitutional?"

It would seem from reading the article that the Supreme Court majority is vehemently opposed to censorship and sees this as very much in keeping with our right to free speech.  Although I am quite opposed to the majority ruling in this case, I must concede that I passionately agree with them on this one point.  Someone (I think at the NAACP?) once said that the answer to hate speech was not censorship, but more and better speech.  This, I believe, is exactly what our founding fathers intended, but not clad in the jargon of “the marketplace of ideas.”

While I am all for diversity of ideas, the word marketplace is troubling.  I appreciate and reap the benefits of this wonderful capitalist economy in our country.  The marketplace has done right by me, and I have taken advantage of many opportunities that I was simply born into by being of the middle class.  The majority Justices tell us that government interference of any kind in this marketplace of ideas is wrong—that it censors free speech.  They conflate dollars with voices however.  They also ignore, on principle, a very disturbing fact about our government and its long history of being controlled by corporate interests.

The notion that a corporation has the same rights as the individual is folly, but it is American law.  Yet our law also states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I read a heavy emphasis here on keeping Government power in check, do you?  The issue for me with the ruling is that it gives corporations a blank check to essentially buy elections.  Congress actually made a law to make sure the last part of the sentence is upheld, not the other way around.  I believe that our government, far from being just heavily influenced by corporate interests, has essentially been taken over by corporations with the politicians as merely figureheads.  I’ll give you some links to chew on another time as far as evidence, but play with me here for the sake of argument.  Let’s say I’m right, and you then substitute the word Corporation for Government at the end of the First Amendment sentence above.  How on earth are the citizens supposed to petition, to dissent, when corporate interests have out spent our voices to the point where they will not be heard in any meaningful sense?

Many people point to the democratizing power of the Internet here.  To this I reference the significant portion of the American populace not online, and the overwhelming flow of information in front of those who are online.  The Internet is a marvelous, revolutionary invention and we should fight like hell to keep corporate interests from taking it over, too.  The Supreme Court decision reverses the essential work of legislators like McCain and Feingold who spearheaded the most recent effort to protect our citizens from those we elect to represent us.  How incredibly self-aware they were and how destructive the Supreme Court majority is in the name of our fore fathers.

“We have the greatest opportunity the world has ever seen, as long as we remain honest — which will be as long as we can keep the attention of our people alive. If they once become inattentive to public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, judges and governors would all become wolves.”-Thomas Jefferson

The public is mired in apathy, numbed by the onslaught of consumerism and enormous debt created by a system that has fallen prey to wolves of our own creation.  Those who have the courage to speak are disadvantaged with a tiny megaphone called the Internet.  That printing press on every desktop is lost in a cacophony of courageous voices on all sides of the political spectrum.  The voice that rises above the din is the voice that outspends us, the voice that is incorrectly deemed to be equal to the individual by law, the voice of the corporation.

The majority judges are playing alpha dog and ripping the throat of democracy out in the name of liberty.  I would kennel the majority, but I don’t believe in censorship.  I would vote them out, but the U.S. is not set up that way, and for good reason.  I would lobby my elect to curb the court dogs, but I fear I am outspent.  I’ll do it anyway because I’m an optimist, and I’m not going down without a fight.